COLUMN: Stop scheduling winter sports – (jk)

Pete Temple
Express Sports Editor

     So here’s my brilliant idea for scheduling high school winter sports:


     That is, don’t assign specific dates to the contests each team has. You could still line them up in the order in which you face each opponent (basketball plays at West Branch, then home against Maquoketa Valley, then home against Anamosa, etc.). Just don’t assign dates to them.

     Then, watch the weather forecasts, and plug the games in when the weather appears favorable. Everybody – players, coaches, officials, fans, bus drivers, even aging sportswriters – would simply be “on call” for every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday of the winter months. A day or two ahead of time, it would be announced that the next game or match is on.

     It has to be better than the current system, in which a week’s worth of contests can be wiped out and then are crammed into the final weeks of the regular season, right?

     Oh, I’m just kidding (jk), of course. Such a plan would be a scheduling and logistical nightmare. Any athletic/activities director who read my first five paragraphs was already plotting my murder. Hopefully they abandoned those plans after this paragraph.

     Besides, such a plan wouldn’t take into account all the other activities that go into these frigid months – speech practices and contests, play practices, FFA things, etc.

     So the non-scheduling plan is a non-starter. But after last week, it might have a wee bit more appeal.

     From a school standpoint, Monticello’s students had a scheduled off-day Monday. Then, because of weather, they had no school Tuesday or Wednesday, a late start AND an early-out Thursday, and no school Friday. So they were in classrooms for maybe two hours the entire week.

     This, of course, turned the sports week into chaos. No Monticello teams were able to practice or play for the entire week, with exception of the MHS bowling teams, which did compete at Cascade on Monday, Jan. 21 (and for a while, that was looking like the only event I would have photos from last week).

     For boys and girls basketball, home dates with Maquoketa Valley and Anamosa were wiped out. A home bowling meet on Friday was called off. A home wrestling meet that had been added to the schedule for Tuesday also bit the dust. So that’s seven varsity events postponed or cancelled in a four-day period (bowling counts as two, since both the boys’ and girls’ teams were scheduled to compete). And that doesn’t even include the JV and freshman-sophomore events that were victims as well.

     Then, on Monday, a home bowling match was called off, making it nine events in a seven-day period. We’ll have to wait and see what happens the rest of this week.

     Thankfully, from the standpoint of this sports section, the River Valley Conference Wrestling Tournament was held as scheduled on Saturday.

     Postponements temporarily lighten the load for your local sports editor. But just as our easy December of weather caught up to us with a challenging January, the coming weeks might be tricky for me as the makeup events pile up.

     If this keeps up, in future years we might have to enact the awful plan I mentioned above.

Super Bowl stuff:

‘The right side of grudges’

     Patrick Reusse, longtime sports columnist for the Star Tribune of Minneapolis, wrote a column after the AFC and NFC championship games that hit home with me and probably a lot of Vikings fans.

     He wrote, and I agree, that the wins by the Rams and Patriots allowed Viking fans to come out “on the right side of grudges.”

     It was really hard for me to feel sorry for the Saints and the missed pass interference call that might have changed the outcome against the Rams. That’s because of the 2010 NFC title game, in which the Saints got away with scores of late hits on Vikings quarterback Brett Favre before winning the game in overtime.

     And as Reusse recalled, it likely didn’t break many Viking fans’ hearts when the Chiefs lost to the Patriots. Many of us older fans are still bitter, not so much because the Chiefs handed the Vikings their helmets in the 1970 Super Bowl, but because of the video of that game, during which Chiefs coach Hank Stram was wearing a microphone, cackling over how well his game plans were working.

     Reusse wrote: “The problem wasn’t Hank fooling the Vikings; it was Hank agreeing to wear a mic, allowing the cackles to still be heard on NFL Films highlight reels a half-century later.”

     He also wrote: “Grudges are hard to let go for sports fans.”

     So true. And as I’ve long said, sports in general and the NFL in particular don’t necessarily bring out the best in me.

Go Rams

     Like about 95 percent of the country, I’ll be pulling for the Rams Sunday, but maybe not for the same reasons as most.

     There was a moment in the NFC title game that made me decide I like coach Sean McVay and want to see his team win. Early in the Saints game, Jared Goff threw an interception that went through the receiver’s hands, and might have been deadly for the Rams’ chances.

     Another coach might have put his face in his hands, or looked disgusted, or started yelling, or thrown a clipboard. Remember what McVay did? As Goff came off the field, a camera zoomed in on the coach. He looked at Goff with a small grin, and gave him a slight nod, as if to say, “It’s going to be OK.”

     I was for the Rams anyway, but after that I was all-in.



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